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Cigar Review: Avo Syncro Nicaragua Fogata Special Toro

13 Dec 2017

With its name so closely linked to burning wood, you might expect Fogata to resemble the smoky presentation of fire-cured tobaccos in cigars from Drew Estate or Sam Leccia.

It doesn’t. In fact, in a statement when the cigar was released last year, Avo Uvezian said an outdoor fire (fogata is a Spanish word that can be translated as bonfire, campfire, or wood fire) was among his “favorite settings to share unforgettable and intimate moments with my closest of friends.” So it’s the surroundings, not the burning, that served as inspiration.

Another assumption for which a smoker could be forgiven is also tied to the name: Like its older sibling, the Avo Syncro Nicaragua, Fogata is far from a Nicaraguan puro. It sports an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 clara wrapper, a Mexican binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

The Nicaraguan filler does not include any leaves from the volcanic island of Ometepe, and Fogata is round, not pressed. Both characteristics are different than the Avo Syncro Nicaragua.

Lastly, on the expectations front, Fogata also pleasantly surprised me with an absence of the disagreeable dirt taste I so often find in Mexican tobacco.

Fogata comes in four sizes, with an elegant Short Torpedo, Robusto, Toro, and the Special Toro. The 6-inch, 60-ring gauge Special Toro continues the trend of including a larger stick in releases. The MSRP is $11.90.

I had no complaints about construction or performance, though the burn tended to be a little fast and a bit uneven at times, even if it didn’t require any significant touch-ups.

The flavors of Fogata are an interesting and well-balanced mix. There’s not an abundance of pepper or spice, but when those ramp up a bit they blend nicely with the overall experience. Significant flavors along the way included a fruity sweetness, coffee, and leather.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cigar, perhaps not quite as much as the original Avo Nicaragua line, but certainly enough to recommend it highly. And to give it four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Avo CigarsStogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Pinar del Rio 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Natural Robusto

9 Dec 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Let’s cut to the chase: This is one of the tastiest mild cigars I’ve smoked. The blend—Dominican and Nicaraguan filler under an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper and Dominican Criollo ’98 binder—kicks in a little spice to keep it interesting along with wood and an occasional touch of sweetness. I found virtually none of the grassy component often common with Connecticut Shade tobacco. But full disclosure: This cigar has been in my humidor for a couple of years and I can’t say how that might have affected it since I hadn’t smoked one previously. The Robusto (5 x 52) from Pinar del Rio is a bargain, available online at just a bit over $5 a stick.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Perla del Mar G

25 Nov 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Another in J.C. Newman’s production of lower-priced cigars, the four-vitola Perla del Mar line marries an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper with Nicaraguan filler and binder tobaccos. The G is a box-pressed 6.25-inch toro with a ring gauge of 54 and a price tag around $6. A little pepper and a little wood are the primary flavors from start to finish. It’s a fairly one-dimensional smoke, but for those who like a mild Connecticut, it is well worth lighting up, especially for the agreeable price.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Perla del Mar

Commentary: Turning to a Friend

13 Nov 2017

I am more than ready to bid goodbye to 2017.

Perhaps you had a good year. I certainly hope so. For me, though, it was a pretty poor twelve months filled with stress. And anxiety, tension, strain, or any other similar descriptor you’d like to use.

I’m not complaining. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But I try not to forget that I have much to be thankful for, and that I’m in a better position than many others.

Nonetheless, that’s a difficult mindset to focus on when you’re watching TV meteorologists charting Hurricane Irma’s path to your doorstep. Or recuperating from hours-long surgery. Or dealing with 2017’s other lousy events I won’t bore you with. (But I will tell you Irma eventually took a different path, inflicting no more damage on us than a few downed tree limbs and a day-long power outage. Also, the surgery was elective, not life-saving. I seem to have made it through the other incidents as well.)

Through it all, I turned to cigars as one would a trusted friend.

Tobacco foes focus on the addictive properties of nicotine, the dangers of disease, and the evils of big tobacco. As has written many times, though, these risks are all pretty minimal when it comes to premium cigars.

And all but ignored in their attacks are the beneficial aspects afforded many cigar smokers. Quiet time. Relaxation. Stress reduction. Pleasure. Just looking forward to having a cigar helped.

I don’t even recall what I lit up most of the time. Usually, I turned to one of my standbys, like something from Don José “Pepin” Garcia or a Perdomo Lot 23. The truth is, though, that what I was smoking didn’t really matter too much.

That’s because what I got was far more than a smoke. It was a time to relax and recharge. Whether I was sitting on the deck listening to music, watching a baseball game on my iPad, or simply staring off into the distance, the time I spent with a cigar was like an oasis.

Yes, I’m sure I could have made it through 2017 without cigars. But I’m also sure it would have been a much rougher trip.

So, here’s to a better New Year coming. And cigars to help us celebrate the good times and help us through the bad times.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Kristoff Criollo Torpedo

12 Nov 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

The Honduran Criollo wrapper on this 6.25-inch torpedo from Kristoff presents a lovely floral pre-light aroma. I didn’t, however, find that when smoking it. Those flavors were more light spice, nuts, and a little woodiness. The one I smoked had a damaged foot (note to manufacturers: cellophane helps), which I assume happened during shipping. After getting past that, it was a pleasant, slow-burning cigar with lots of smoke and medium strength from its Dominican and Nicaraguan filler.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Alec Bradley Nica Puro Diamond Rough-Cut

28 Oct 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

This parallelogram-shaped Diamond Rough-Cut is the third limited production Nica Puro from Alec Bradley. Weighing it at 6.25 inches with a ring gauge of 54 and an MSRP under $9, it’s a bargain for a hearty, brawny, satisfying smoke. A Nicaraguan puro, as the name implies, the Diamond Rough-Cut isn’t a complex cigar, but the combination of wood, some sweetness, and pepper is pleasing from start to finish. I did encounter some minor draw issues and had to relight a couple of times, but that didn’t significantly detract from the overall experience.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Alec Bradley

Cigar Insider: Ernest Gocaj of General Cigar

23 Oct 2017

For anyone interested in cigars and tobacco, CAO’s Fuma Em Corda is a fascinating release. The sight of its Arapiraca ligero filler leaves fermenting in thick ropes resembling coiled anacondas is unlike any other.

I was, of course, curious about the cigar, the tobacco, and the process, so I reached out to Ernest Gocaj, General Cigar’s director of tobacco procurement who’s deeply involved in the company’s adoption of many exotic strains from around the world.

Gocaj said he came upon the special tobacco used in the Fuma Em Corda in Alagoas, a small Brazilian state on the eastern coast. The rope fermentation process is used only in Alagoas and only for ligero leaves—those at the top of the tobacco plant often characterized by spice and strength.

Tobacco farmers in Alagoas use more conventional methods of fermenting the lower leaves to allow moisture and ammonia to dissipate.

“The tobacco from Alagoas is Arapiraca, a native seed that’s only grown there,” Gocaj said in an email. “For CAO Fuma Em Corda, we use only ligero leaves which are harvested and sun-cured, and we use this tobacco as filler.”

“Once the tobacco turns brown, the natives make it into a rope and twist it regularly to expel the juices of the tobacco. At this time, ammonia is released and the flavor is softened. In other words, the harshness is removed from the leaf. Everything is done in sunlight. The tobacco becomes very pure and refined through this method.”

Gocaj has been with General Cigar for about 20 years after earning a degree in agriculture in his native Albania and moving to the U.S. He has worked at the company’s Connecticut farming operation and has been instrumental in developing General’s vast tobacco library.

For CAO’s Amazon Basin series, the blends include tobaccos from numerous countries in addition to Brazil. Fuma Em Corda, the second in a planned trilogy, features a Cameroon binder and a Honduran wrapper. It is a limited release with a Robusto (5 x 50, $8.99) for brick-and-mortar retailers and a Toro (6 x 58, $10.49) for online sales.

I’ve smoked several of the Robustos, and they definitely stand out. From the rich, leathery pre-light aroma to the spicy, cedar start, the cigar makes a statement. Along the way, I also encountered chocolate, coffee, and some nuttiness. Strength is medium, with a good burn and strong smoke production.

“Curing under the sun and rope fermentation in an open environment has many advantages,” Gocaj wrote. “The result is tobacco with subtle flavors that blends well with other tobaccos. These methods produce a tobacco that is very pleasant to smoke.”

Like a lot of cigars containing unusual tobaccos or using different production methods—fire-cured tobacco is one example that comes to mind—the smoking experience is distinctive. Some will find it to their liking. Others won’t. I doubt many will be neutral.

For me, Fuma Em Corda is a cigar I’d reach for when I want something different, not on a steady basis. That’s not a knock. I’ve enjoyed those I’ve smoked and would certainly recommend any experienced cigar smoker give it a try.

George E

photo credit: General CigarStogie Guys